Putin: Poisoners? They're just these guys, you know?

One week ago, Ed talked about the two Russian GRU agents blamed by Britain for the poisoning attack. Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (who have to be the two Russians with the most Russian names ever) were accused of the Sergei Skripal assassination attempt. The Brits have leveled charges against them, while not having much in the way of expectations that they’ll ever get their hands on them. But now, Vladimir Putin has finally responded. GRU agents? Perish the thought. They’re just a couple of guys, you know? (BBC)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is “nothing criminal” about the men named by UK authorities over the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

UK authorities have named the men as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, thought to be officers of Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU.

But Mr Putin said they were civilians and would tell their story soon.

Mr Skripal and Yulia were poisoned in the city of Salisbury in March.

Putin goes on to claim that his government has “found them” and he sincerely hopes that they’ll come forward and tell their side of the story soon. There’s certainly nothing unseemly or criminal going on and it was all probably just some sort of misunderstanding. So… problem solved, right?

Britain has done a lot of legwork on this case in an impressively short amount of time. Thanks to the security cameras they’ve been installing in most cities and airports, they’ve got photographs of nearly all the movements of the two men from the moment they arrived until they departed for home. They came up with pretty much everything except a film of them planting the poison or a signed confession, but the Russians clearly have no plans to extradite them or even charge them with anything judging by how Putin is describing the situation.

Interpol released a “red notice” for the two men and the EU put out an arrest warrant that might come into play if they ever leave Russia again, but that also sounds unlikely. You’ll recall that when Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned a little more than a decade ago, warrants were issued for Andrei Lugovoi, but he was never extradited either. In the end, this is just Putin being Putin and as long as the perpetrators remain on Russian soil there’s probably not much anyone can do about it short of some sort of black bag operation inside that country.